LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The wake-up call for Wayne Lukas came at 3:30 Sunday morning. The day wasn't starting any differently for the 52-year-old trainer, even though he had won the Kentucky Derby with Winning Colors about 10 hours before.
Well before dawn, Lukas stopped at a doughnut shop en route to Churchill Downs. His cash-register receipt showed a red star, which meant that the coffee and doughnuts were free. That is what's really known as a roll. An elusive victory that was worth $61,120 in commission--and considerably more in personal satisfaction--one day, and an on-the-house breakfast the next.
Can Winning Colors' victory in the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown series, at Pimlico on May 21 be part of the same roll?
Another victory is a probability. The free-wheeling Winning Colors tired at the finish of the 1-mile Derby but was still able to keep Forty Niner safe by a neck. And the Preakness, because it's a sixteenth of a mile shorter, should be a perfect fit for her front-running style.
But just because Winning Colors became only the third filly to win the Derby doesn't mean that trainers of a few of her Churchill Downs rivals are going to despair and not test her again in Baltimore.
At least four of the Derby also-rans--Forty Niner, Regal Classic, Brian's Time and Private Terms--are expected to run in the Preakness. They finished second, fifth, sixth and ninth, respectively, in the Derby. That quartet will be joined by Tejano, who is also trained by Lukas, and Finder's Choice, who, with Private Terms, will give trainer Charlie Hadry a two-horse entry.
A trainer who apparently slept in much later than Lukas Sunday is saying that if he doesn't gain revenge in the Preakness, Winning Colors won't win the race, either. Woody Stephens, who trains Forty Niner, didn't arrive at the colt's barn here until past 9:30 a.m., but conversationally he wasn't guilty of a late start.
"We'll ride my horse differently in the Preakness," Stephens said from one of the long, white sedans supplied for Derby trainers. "I may finish last, but the filly will finish next to last."
There was some criticism of Pat Day's ride on Forty Niner in the Derby, but Stephens had no problem with it, and the three-time Eclipse Award winner will be back aboard at Pimlico.
"Pat rode my horse beautifully Saturday," Stephens said. "He followed my instructions to the letter. He had to ride the way he did because we had the outside post position (in a 17-horse field)."
There was less early speed than usual in the Derby, and many trainers had hoped that Forty Niner would challenge Winning Colors early. That didn't happen, and she was able to canter along through slow early fractions. She had just enough left at the wire when Forty Niner rallied to make up four lengths in the final eighth of a mile.
"We'll be going for the lead in the Preakness and then we'll see if the filly can stand the heat or get out of the kitchen," Stephens said.
Many observers thought that Winning Colors was a brilliant winner, holding a lead over 1 miles against a tough opponent on a racing surface that was penalizing front-runners in other races most of the day. Her time of 2:02 1/5 was not shabby, comparing favorably with clockings of several Derby winners in recent years.
Stephens has seldom been a man to praise another trainer's horses. He acknowledged that because of her sex, Winning Colors carried 5 fewer pounds than Forty Niner in the Derby and also said: "She didn't run a real fast race."
A loser with 12 previous Derby starters, Lukas almost assuredly resisted the chance to finally crow Sunday, especially in the company of about 50 bleary-eyed reporters, including some who had written often of his failures.
"I'm going to try to keep the bitterness out of it," Lukas said. "It would be easy to take some shots, because I'm in a good position, but I'm not going to do that."
When Lukas, his son Jeff--who's an assistant trainer--and a groom accompanied Winning Colors on the long walk from her barn to the paddock about a half-hour before the Derby, there were fans rimming the outside rail who reminded the head trainer about his Derby record.
"You're going to be 0 for 13 after today, Lukas," one of the railbirds yelled.
"If you don't win, don't come back," another one shouted.
The taunts ricocheted off Wayne Lukas, but they might have helped Winning Colors.
"They stirred her up," Lukas said. "She wasn't hot, but she was on the muscle because of the crowd. She had a lot of adrenaline flowing."
Asked about the possibility of Winning Colors becoming the 1st filly and 12th 3-year-old to win the Triple Crown, Lukas said:
"We've got a shot at it. It's not an impossible task. This filly is not at a peak yet, and she looked sharper today than she did Saturday. We're hoping to use the Derby as a springboard for her. I know the Belmont's a mile and a half, but it's still a race that's conducive to speed. If horses get on the lead, they usually stay there."
If Winning Colors somehow goes all the way in the Triple Crown, you wonder what Woody Stephens might say to Lukas then. On the open market, one Triple Crown just might be worth more than Stephens' five Belmont wins.